Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Obligatory Sarah Palin Reference (nov. 2008)

First part of my 1 year anniversary blog retrospective.
This was a november 27th 2008 article.
When I wrote it, I thought we'd have all forgotten about one Sarah Palin a year later.
Ha, well.

So, once upon a time there came analog synthesizers...

They were warm and funky, but they also ran on voltage-controlled leprechauns which made them unpredictable and generally prone to detune like if there was nothing that would make them happier than watching you hit your head on the floor in disgust after an afternoon spent trying to record a 4 parts harmony with a constantly drifting monophonic Arp Soloist (which incidentally caused Donald Fagen from Steely Dan to throw the instrument down the studio stairs and kick it viciously before setting it on fire).

Some were big, and I mean suspiciously big, and you could contact aliens with them.

(Young Mister Spielberg fiddles with an Arp 2500 synthesizer)

Others had funny names, like Multimoog.
After a while, the musicians got bored with the analogness and craved for new sounds and synths that wouldn't humiliate you in the middle of a lifetime's keyboard solo by going totally out of tune, Schönberg-style. The mere idea of an analog oscillator made them cry, at that point.

The new instruments had crazy names like D50, M1, or EPS.They looked clean and slick and mysterious and Japanese.
They had microprocessors and digital thingies that would magically produce sounds out of ones and zeroes.You could do a whole bunch of nice sounds you couldn't do before, but they also sounded stiffer, and thinner, and stiffer again. Oh, they were stiff all right.

Then the musicians got bored again and wanted some sort of X-Filesque hybrids, without the suffocating green blood, but with some analog character. Virtuality was big in those days, so the new instruments were virtual analog...
Some were hardware and some were software, but they were all digital synths dressed in their analog brothers' clothes.

Then the real analog synthesizers came back as well, with new models and spacey names, like Andromeda.
The circle was full and that sort of things.

But now we ask ourselves :

Is virtual that virtual?

Is reality really real?

Is Sarah Palin really real, for that matter?

Here's what I think :
1) You can do good music with virtual analog and bad music with real analog.
2) When comparing two isolated sounds, it can be hard to tell some really accurate virtual analog from the real thing.
3) When you pile up tracks of real analog, it sounds a lot better than the same thing done with virtual analog, and that has to do with the imperfection of analog technology : the subtle drift of the tuning, the various quirks and oddities of that old school circuitry.
4) Either Sarah Palin is unreal, or I am unreal. Or maybe we're all part of Sarah Palin's dream. In all cases, I probably shouldn't have eaten all that raw fish.

To illustrate my point, here's the same song, from the "Strawberry Blonde" album.

It's the intro and first verse, without the vocals.
I first recorded it last year using virtual analog (hardware and software).

I've recorded it again this year using analog gear.

The mixing is better, that's a point, but further than that, it's clear that the same music played with real analog sounds fuller, richer, well, nicer!

And that's the end of that chapter.

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